Mac’s indoor track season technically got underway in January, but David Palmer ’20 (River Falls, Wis.) saw it differently. “This season started for me as soon as last season ended,” he says. Palmer got to work right away last summer, with two big goals on his mind: qualifying for nationals and improving his 400-meter run enough to compete at a Division I level in graduate school. (Because he didn’t start running track until his sophomore year at Mac, he’ll still be eligible to compete in NCAA athletics next year.)

“I want to thank my mom,” says 400-meter record-holder and MIAC champion David Palmer ’20. “She came to every single meet and was halfway to North Carolina when she found out the national championships were canceled.”

And for the first 10 weeks, the season unfolded according to plan. The psychology and studio art major collected four school records and won the 400 at the MIAC indoor track & field championships, becoming Macalester’s first men’s conference champion on the track since 2013. At the last regular-season meet, Palmer ran the 400 in 48.89 seconds, lowering his school record by nearly a second. That performance ranked fifth in all of Division III and qualified him for the indoor track & field championships in Winston-Salem, N.C.

That’s where Palmer was in mid-March when everything came to a halt for his season—and then swiftly, for all of college athletics. Coronavirus concerns were accelerating nationwide, but the surge of sporting-event cancellations was just beginning. Two days before the meet, Division I teams started withdrawing from their national meet, and the day before Palmer’s preliminary heat, he found out by scrolling Instagram in his hotel room that the NCAA had canceled all remaining winter championship competitions. He flew back to Minnesota the next day, when Macalester joined other MIAC schools in canceling the entire spring sports season because of the pandemic.

This spring, instead of competing for another MIAC title outside, Palmer will figure out how to wrap up his studio art capstone remotely. He’ll also decide his next step: he’s applying to master of sports management programs with a goal to go into coaching—and hopefully get a chance to race one more season on the track. “I’m trying to control what I can control,” Palmer says. “I’m going about this as if I still have practice six days per week; I’m just not racing on the weekends. It doesn’t feel like the end for me yet, but you never know when you could be having your last race. And I’m grateful for the half-season I got.”

April 22 2020

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